Snapshot 5

Night driving again.
Headlights of approaching cars growing out of the dark like an onrushing double sun, disappearing behind and leaving an after image in the eye, the red glow of rear lights in the rear view mirror. Left alone once more, within the metal bubble of warmth, road noise, and isolation.

Journeys always seem to both take longer, and pass quicker. Why?
Is it the lack of perceivable landmarks, no road signs or passing white lines to reenforce the forward motion? Or is the way travelling at night messes with the circadian rhythm, confusing the mind and body with a combination of sleeping dark, and adrenaline inducing speed?

Driving past fields, imagining the peace of a moonlit walk, journeying to a destination in the same way as our ancestors, centuries before.
Catching sight of a lay-by as it whizzes past, the oft-thought of sentence that ghosts into the mind – “Imagine being stuck there now…”.

Familiar roads, and junctions, look different at night. When the roads are this quiet, some junctions look like the scene of an accident, where all the bodies have been removed, but the forensic lighting is still there, scanning for spilled blood, skid marks. Or they are like a dressed stage, set for actors to play their way across, before an audience that isn’t there.

Stiff neck. Tired eyes. Counting down the miles as they tick off the odometer, getting ever closer to home. No cars in the rear view mirror means a black, empty space behind, as though the road and all the world has been gathered in by the car’s rear wheels.

Finally coming upon the exit junction, leaving the main artery and filtering off into a smaller, less important one, like an air bubble in a bloodstream.

Smaller roads, slower roads. The mad, head-long rush slowing to a more gentle cruise through sleeping streets, to home.

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Snapshot 2

I saw a black sun today.
You were driving, which for me is a big deal as I’ve always been one to want to be in control. Not in a domineering, manly-man way; more like… actually, it’s nothing that complicated. I just prefer to drive.
But today, you were driving, and the verges of the motorway sped past while we moved in their shadow.
I played the game I play with myself. I spot just one tiny piece of road furniture – a barrier support, a particular cat’s eye, even just a hole or mark in the ground – and I acknowledge it. I focus on it. And I think to myself, “I will never see that piece of the world again”.

You said something to me, about how happy you felt, and as I turned toward you we left the shadows and my eyes were hit square on by the sun. It was like those videos of test nuclear blasts, an instant of pure, white light. This made me slam my eyes shut with a wince, and the impression the sun made behind my eyelids was a black sun. I refused to see this as an omen.

Drive

Another mile gone, another mile without a word. It was my fault really, I once again let my temper flare when by now, I should have learned to bite my tongue.
I feel a little sympathy toward you, because while I have the act of driving to focus on, you have nothing but the passing world.
Staring out at cars with families, lorries and their loads, the lone travellers off to who knows where. Hearing the last salvos of our argument play round and round your head, dissecting and offering counter arguments to each point.
I have the mind emptying task of just focusing on the road, to drown out the “you said, I said” repetitiveness.

Arguments are always won in the mind, after the fact. But it’s the ones that are first spoken, then shouted, that make it harder, with each passing minute, to offer reconciliation. The point and counter point that plays out in the mind, “If I say this, he’ll say that”, which in the end leads to only more silence.
The lie we tell each other – “Oh I love your stubbornness, it’s why we get on so well” – is in fact a curse that can damage our relationship when it is at its most intransigent, and we both refuse to concede to the other.

It would take such a small movement to bridge the chasm of heavy silence in the car. A hand across to rest on a thigh, or to gently stroke the back of the head. That would be less effort even than just quietly saying “I’m sorry”. Instead, another mile ticks over, and another small slice is added to the growing pile of resentment. All the while, you stare out at the flowing road, while I drive.